When “NBC’s Saturday Night” debuted in October 1975 with the irreverent George Carlin as the first guest host, the cast and its creator, Lorne Michaels, were out to change late-night television forever. What eventually developed into “Saturday Night Live” has become a cultural touchstone, and one of the most famous programs in the history of American television.
That first season, the stars broke all the rules, and the show reinvented late-night television. From the original cast, and in later years, “SNL” made megastars out of comedians like John Belushi, Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy, Mike Myers and many others. For young, aspiring comedians and performers, getting a coveted spot in the ensemble cast has become a platform to tremendous success — and a rite of passage.
The original female cast members of “SNL” were particularly groundbreaking, as both their writing and performances took on timely subject matter and themes, shattering the mold of how comediennes were supposed to act.
Though it has been a runaway success, the show has also been criticized for promoting male cast members over its female co-writers and performers. After the three-and-a-half hour special commemorating the show’s 40th anniversary aired Sunday, Feb. 15, and with Glamour Magazine set to feature a photo spread in its March issue of the women of “SNL” and their reflections on their time on the show, TheBlot Magazine thought it was time to give respect to our Top 5 funniest female cast members, especially as the back slaps continue to roll in for Michaels.
Aside from looking absolutely fabulous in the pictures released ahead of the Glamour issue’s publication, the 17 featured ladies didn’t miss the opportunity to remind us they’ve still got comedy their chops and haven’t slowed a bit on the funny.
They should probably start their own show. What do you think, Lorne? (Just leave me a co-creator and executive producer credit, like you did for yourself. That’s all I ask.) Until then, here are
KRISTEN WIIG 2005-2012
Wiig’s hilarious list of characters included many memorable performances as she was the master of mimicry, lambasting the famous and infamous alike, from Barbie and Suze Orman to Kathie Lee Gifford and Paula Deen.
JANE CURTIN 1975-1980
The “Queen of the Deadpan,” Curtin often played a straight-woman foil to cast members like John Belushi and Gilda Radner on “SNL.” She was also Prymaat of the Coneheads, the wife and mother from the family’s home planet Remulak. But my favorite recurring segment of hers was the news viewpoint parody “Point/Counterpoint,” on which Curtin would argue for a liberal viewpoint versus the conservative Dan Aykroyd. Curtin would begin, and Aykroyd would launch a rebuttal, but the interplay between the two was priceless. And who could ever forget her great retort, “Dan, you pompous ass.”
TINA FEY 1997-2006
The show’s first female head writer and a former co-host of “Weekend Update,” Fey was tremendous on the show as her original writing and characters were always great. After “SNL,” she piloted the smash success “30 Rock” and has become a No. 1 favorite lady in comedy while also hosting the Golden Globe Awards with her buddy and fellow show alum, Amy Poehler.
JULIA SWEENEY 1990-1994
Among her many funny performances, Sweeney is probably best remembered as the inspiration and driving force behind the Pat sketch. She even — like almost every man who has starred on the show with a recurring character — got a movie deal out of the indeterminately gendered Pat, but I’m pretty sure no one watched it.
JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS 1982-1985
The early 1980s were lean years for “SNL,” as the show took a downturn following its first golden era. Louis-Dreyfus may not have become a big star on the show, but her later work on “Seinfeld” cemented her in the comedienne’s hall of fame. On “SNL,” she was the youngest female cast member hired at the time, and it’s where she met “Seinfeld” co-creator Larry David, who was a writer on the show for one season.
Noah Zuss is a reporter for TheBlot Magazine.